Key Departures: Marcus Zegarowski (NBA); Denzel Mahoney (Grad); Damien Jefferson (Grad); Christian Bishop (–>Texas); Mitchell Ballock (Grad); Antwann Jones (–>Louisiana)
New In Town: Ryan Hawkins (DII); Arthur Kaluma (#48); Ryan Nembhard (#68); Mason Miller (#73); Trey Alexander (#75); John Christofilis (#147)
State of the Program:
Last season was the best season in a long long time for Creighton and certainly the best in the Greg McDermott era as they made a Sweet 16 for the first time in the modern tourney era and finished just behind Nova in the Big East. The unfortunate news is that team was so good they lost 4 guys who had eligibility to the NBA process, with Zegarowski being a draft pick and Mahoney, Jefferson, and Ballock all playing in the summer league. 5th starter Christian Bishop left to avoid the rebuild and join loaded Texas leaving McDermott with a really tough task to reload this program. The good news is he was able to haul in the 7th best recruiting class in the country, including the 4 highest rated recruits in the programs history. They do get back a couple of guys who got some minutes in reserve last year in big man Ryan Kalkbrenner (SO) and G’s Shereef Mitchell (JR) and Alex O’Connell (JR), plus a couple redshirt FR in Rati Andronikashvili and Modestas Kancleris. That young core will combine with the huge Freshman class to give McDermott some good talent but not much experience to work with, making this year a likely step backwards but there’s still plenty to be hopeful for in the future.
Leading this impressive incoming class is 6’8” F Arthur Kaluma (#48) who is a beast on the defensive end and on the glass, as his athleticism and motor jump off the page. He has skills in transition and has some ability in the face-up game but ultimately his offense lags behind his abilities on the other end. His versatility on defense should allow him to come right in and be the starting 4 next to Kalkbrenner inside though and he should develop into a dominate paint beast and if he develops his jumper he could excel at the next level as well. 6’1” PG Ryan Nembhard (#68), brother to Gonzaga G Andrew Nembhard, also comes into town and while he’s a little small he showed off his offensive abilities in the U19 World Cup for Canada. He has a nice jumper and is very effective attacking off the bounce for both himself and his teammates. He will come right in and have a chance to start in the backcourt with Mitchell and O’Connell to round out the starting 5. Next up is 6’9” F Mason Miller (#73), son of former NBA journeyman Mike Miller and is the virtual antithesis of classmate Kaluma, as he’s a stretch big that has a beautiful shot just like his dad. He is not the most athletic guy and he needs to add strength but there is no doubt down the road he will be a dangerous stretch 4 and could even pair alongside Kaluma as a small ball 5. These two should win a lot of games together under McDermott. Another G 6’4” Trey Alexander (#75) comes into town as an athletic combo guard that excels at attacking downhill and has good length and athleticism to develop into a solid defender as well. His jumper needs development but his ability to attack and be a playmaker will certainly earn him a role right away and much like all of these Freshmen he has a huge opportunity to play a lot right away. The final newcomer is another G John Christofilis (#147) who is a really solid shooter but is not a great athlete. If he becomes the lethal outside shooter like he has the potential to do he will certainly earn a role in this program, he will just need to come a long way defensively and improve a little athletically. He likely won’t get much time this season but his shooting ability will be important down the line. They do welcome in a couple transfers as well, most notably DII star Ryan Hawkins (SR), who averaged just 22 ppg over the last 2 seasons as a forward and will give the Jays some more scoring punch, and he’ll battle Kaluma for the starting 4 spot. For more depth inside McDermott also brought in F KeyShawn Feazell (SR), who didn’t play much in 3 seasons with Miss St but was .1 rebound/game away from averaging a double double last season with McNeese St. He will give McDermott more experience and also battle Hawkins, Kaluma, Miller and Kalkbrenner for minutes at the 4 and 5 spots.
McDermott has one of the bigger challenges in the Conference as he’s lost all 5 starters from a season ago and will be relying on one of the most inexperienced rosters in the Country. The good news is that comes with low expectations and just an opportunity to throw FR out there and develop them and prepare for next season. This is a recipe for growing pains and some tough losses but there should still be a lot of hope from Creighton fans as this FR class can win a ton of games and make some National noise in the future if they stay together. McDermott has this program in a great place, and a down year will be perfectly acceptable after 2 really good seasons and a new core incoming. Stay patient, and don’t be surprised if by the end of the season this team is a little frisky.